Four major automakers have reached an agreement with California on fuel efficiency rules, bypassing a Trump administration effort to strip the state of the right to fight climate change by setting its own standards, Reuters reports.
California and other states had vowed to enforce stricter Obama-era emissions standards, after US President Donald Trump proposed rolling back the federal rules.
Automakers had worried that court battles between state and federal governments could create years of uncertainty for manufacturers.
Environmental groups had mixed reactions to the California compromise, which is voluntary for the automakers and not legally binding.
The plan is more stringent than Trump’s proposal but looser than the standards during the administration of President Barack Obama.
California, the most populous US state, accounts for about 12 percent of US vehicle sales, and if the administration recognizes the deal it would allow automakers to operate under one set of rules.
“Ensuring that America’s vehicles are efficient, safe and affordable is a priority for us all,” Ford Motor Co., BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. said in a joint statement.
They said the accord could help maintain a nationwide set of fuel efficiency requirements.
The automakers “didn’t want to face the expense, distraction and the bad publicity that comes from being part of a big rollback on clean cars”, Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters on Wednesday.
She said the state hoped to turn the voluntary agreement “into enforceable agreements” and that the companies had agreed not to legally challenge California’s vehicle regulatory authority.
The White House showed no willingness to reopen talks, saying “the federal government, not a single state, should set this standard. We are moving forward to finalize a rule for the benefit of all Americans.”
Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Michael Abboud called the agreement “a PR stunt that does nothing to … provide certainty and relief for American consumers.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) said in a statement it looked forward to reviewing the agreement, while General Motors Co (GM.N) said it still hoped for a nationwide deal.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representing major automakers including GM, VW and Toyota Motor Corp., said the deal acknowledged the Obama rules are “not attainable and need to be adjusted”.
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